Pre 1897 thumbnails

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Neg. No: GP (L) 1365
Neg. Size: 15"x12"
Neg. Date: 03-07-1897

copyright V&A

Sitter: Alfred (Alexander William Ernest Albert), Hereditary Prince of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (1874-1899).

Image displayed in:


Biog: Only son of Duke Alfred I of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha; Lieutenant, 1st Regiment of Prussian Guards.

The Last Romantic: A Biography of Queen Marie of Roumania, Hannah Paukula, London, 1985, [p 121]

When [she] arrived in Gotha [1899], she found her brother, Alfred "pale and emaciated... his young life wasting away" It had been a tragic year for Alfred. The heir to the dukedom was suffering from venereal disease. During the summer he had been discharged from his regiment. Missy had last seen him in the fall, when their mother, disgusted and embarrassed by his disease, had sent him to Roumania. Since then he had vastly deteriorated. "He hardly recognizes anyone and often does not know what he says, poor boy," [Marie] wrote...

Shortly after [Marie's] arrival, her brother was moved to a rest home in Merano, Italy, where he died almost immediately, attended by only his French tutor and a servant.


Role: Duke Robert of Normandy, A.D. 1060.

The Reminiscences of Lady Randolph Churchill, p 303

...while the late Hereditary Prince of Saxe-Coburg as the Duke of Normandy, AD 1060, in casque and chain armour, kept his visor down until heat and hunger forced him to sacrifice his martial appearance..

Date: 3 July 1897.

Occasion: The Devonshire House Ball, 2 July 1897.

Location: Devonshire House, Piccadilly, London, W.

Descr: FL standing.

Costume: A coat of mail and casque.

Costume Designer: [John Seymour Lucas, R.A. (1849-1923) advised as to the historical accuracy of the costume. (The Daily Graphic, 3 July 1897, p 12b.) ]

Costume Supplier: -

Furniture & Props: Painted backdrop with 'baronial fireplace'; studio Persian rug.

"My Brother Alfred at the Age of Eighteen" - image from:
Marie, Queen of Roumania, The Story of My Life, New York, 1934, facing p 266

Photographer: The firm of J. Lafayette, 179 New Bond Street, London, W.

Evidence of photographer at work: -

No of poses: 1.

Copyright: V&A

All images on this site are copyright V&A. For further information on using or requesting copies of any images please contact the V&A Picture Library: including the URL of the relevant page

Provenance: Pinewood Studios; acquired 1989.


Biog: Hugh Montgomery-Massingberd ed., Burke's Royal Families of the World, Vol I, London, 1977, p 271; The Times, 7 February 1899, p 6; Marie, Queen of Roumania, The Story of My Life, New York, 1934; Hannah Paukula, The Last Romantic: A Biography of Queen Marie of Roumania, London, 1985, [p 121]; John van der Kiste and Bee Jordaan, Dearest Affie... Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh: Queen Victoria’s second son 1844-1900, Gloucester, 1984

Occasion: Sophia Murphy, The Duchess of Devonshire's Ball, London, 1984.

Role & Costume: (Duke William of Normandy) The Daily Graphic, 3 July 1897, p 12b; (Duke Robert of Normandy) The Morning Post, 3 July 1897, p 7f; The Standard, 3 July 1897, p 4a; The Court Journal, 10 July 1897, p 1247b. (see also Mrs George Cornwallis-West, The Reminiscences of Lady Randolph Churchill, London, 1908, p. 303)

Costume Designer: -

Costume Supplier: -

Photography: The Daily Telegraph, 3 July 1897, p 9f; Black & White, 10 July 1897, p 38b.

Reproduced: Devonshire House Fancy Dress Ball, July 2 1897: A Collection of Portraits in Costume of Some of the Guests, privately printed, 1899, p 12 (National Portrait Gallery Archives).

Acknowledgements: -

Text used in Bucharest exhibition [May 2004]

As Duke Ernst of Co

burg (Prince Alfred’s great-uncle) had no heir, Queen Marie [of Romanis]’s only brother Alfred was groomed for the position. He was sent off at an early age for education and military training in Potsdam.

As a result, he spent very little time with his immediate family, and Queen Marie’s published diaries mention him only fleetingly. Almost a 'Germanised' stranger to his family, and beyond parental superivision, he fell into what was termed 'bad ways.'

Hardly a year after this image was made, Prince Alfred made a visit to his sister Queen Marie who found him 'pale and emaciated... his young life wasting away… He hardly recognizes anyone and often does not know what he says, poor boy.' Although the official reason given for him not attending his parents’ Silver Wedding celebrations in Coburg in 1899 was 'nervous depression' - in reality he was suffering from a gunshot wound which he inflicted upon himself after an argument with his parents over his alleged marriage to an Irishwoman the previous year.

Alfred’s mother, the unsympathetic Grand Duchess Marie, now Duchess of Coburg – with her horror of impropriety and deeply galled at her son’s waywardness – refused to have him in the palace during the celebrations.

In spite of the doctors’ warnings, the Duchess sent him off for convalescence to the Tyrol where he died within a fortnight. His death was officially noted to have been caused by 'chronic cerebral affection'.

After Alfred’s death some sources claim that his father never spent another night under the same roof as his mother.

In this image by Lafayette, Alfred is seen in the costume of 'Duke Robert of Normany, A.D. 1060' - which he wore to an aristocratic costume ball given in London to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of his grandmother, Queen Victoria.

Prince Alfred’s swagger pose mirrors exactly the pose in which he is seen in the very few published images of him. In the inset image, he wears the uniform and Pickelhaube of the 1st Regiment of Prussian Guards.